It was a big year for video games.
Looking back over 2017, it stands out as the best year in gaming in a decade or more. With massive AAA releases of classic franchises like Zelda and Mario, Nintendo resurgent in both hardware and software, and Xbox and PlayStation still battling for dominance, everything felt like a hard fought competition for your gaming dollar.
I asked the AiPT! staff to weigh in on their own favorite games of 2017, and we seemed to be playing everything, both AAA and obscure. Here’s what we couldn’t put down this year and in some cases will probably be playing in 2018 as well.
Eric Cline: This has been a great year for games. From the out-of-the-blue phenomenon that was Dream Daddy to unexpected indie hit Super Mario Odyssey, I’ve really dug a lot that I’ve played in 2017. Ultimately, though, I’ve gotta give the win to the most obvious candidate: Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey.
Oh right, no one else knows what the hell this game is. Basically, you play as an aspiring alchemist with a hunger for life outside of her secluded cavern-village. She departs with her sister Liane on a quest to obtain her alchemy license, and to prove to her parents that she can live life her own way.
It’s a poignant tale of striking out on one’s own that almost anyone can relate to in some way or another. The opening quest has a time limit of one in-game year, which provides enough structure to maintain a sense of purpose while also allowing players the freedom to explore the game’s vast maps in almost any order they choose. This is niche JRPG goodness at its best, with turn-based combat, foraging, and the Atelier series’ bread and butter — alchemic synthesis. Essentially, you collect shit, combine it with other shit in a pot, and make new shit. It’s fun!
The sheer variety of gameplay mechanics is really delightful. If I’m in the mood for standard battles, the fighting system here is solid and the enemy creatures are fantastically designed. If I wanna play the game passively, synthesizing blades of grass into potions for an hour? I can do that too. All within a world with beautiful graphics and a large variety of environments, from wide open meadows to villages built into mountain cliffs. The cast of characters is likable too, with Angriff, the buffest 55-year-old of all time, stealing the show. Overall, I have only minor complaints about this game, and I put more hours into it than any other new release this year. I think that makes it more than a fair pick.
Nathaniel Muir: There were a lot of strong games to start 2017, but the one that stands out is Persona 5. The game is almost too stylish for its own good, boasts a wide array of fun characters, and has one of the most amazing video game soundtracks in years.
Battling through imaginative dungeons while navigating your life as a high school student is more fun that it should be. The game is dark, funny, and has deeper lore than many open world games. You do not have to be a fan of JRPGs to enjoy this gem. All you need is a little over one hundred hours of spare time and you are set.
On top of everything, Persona 5 gave the world this!
David Brooke: It’s safe to say Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will win all the awards and it’s probably the most time I’ve put into a game all year, but my pick is PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a first person online game in years (okay sure, it’s third person too). That’s because it allows you to drop in and play 20 to 30 minute deathmatches against 99 other players in a giant and varied open world. It’s all about scavenging as fast as possible before another player kills you with everything from a machine gun to a flipping frying pan.
To make things even more intense it’s really hard to kill other characters. Just shooting them is difficult and switching to first person from third person can be a dicey, pulse-pounding few seconds. The game has a feel I would imagine real life is like if you were wandering in the forest expecting to get shot at and to shoot others.
It’s also a great game to play with friends in duo or squad modes. It’s the perfect game to chat while you play and the team based strategy will have you communicating. The game allows you to hang out because it’s so relaxed and yet your guard will always be up because you won’t know where the opponents are and when they’re coming. Then without a moment’s notice you’ll get a car coming in with other players shooting at you and you’ll be screaming into your mic to run and get down. It’s an intense game that’s hard to not enjoy and that goes doubly so when paired with a partner.
If you’re an adrenaline junkie this is the game for you. Not only is it kicking up when you’re in a firefight and unsure who will go down first, but it’s also rushing when you’re looting and have no idea if someone spotted you. You’re on alert at all times and it never lets up.
Ken Petti: As a frugal gamer, I tend to be a bit behind the curve on new releases. Last month, though, the Switch’s magnetic appeal finally got to me, and with it Super Mario Odyssey. I regret nothing! I’m not a Mario expert, but from my experience with the little mustachioed fellow this is his best game yet. Each installment in the Super Mario line tries to offer something new but none of them have hit the mark nearly as well as Odyssey. Sunshine and Galaxy, while awesome games, modified Mario’s DNA in an effort to offer something new. Odyssey takes a fundamental element of Mario, his iconic hat, and infuses it with something totally new. Sure, the idea of a living hat called Cappy is kind of creepy, but here it’s such an inspired, organic, “how have they not done this before” design decision that has blown me away and just feels right.
The thing that makes Odyssey really stand out is that the gimmick continually keeps things fresh. From level to level, Mario’s abilities change with the enemies he encounters. Obviously jumping puzzles are still a fundamental part of the game, but the puzzles that open up once Mario turns into a fish or a Koopa or a tank keep me on my toes. The level and puzzle design really takes full advantage of everything Mario and Cappy can do.
The last point I’ll make is that Odyssey is an awesome flagship for the Switch, and really highlights the potential of the system. With a snap of the Joy-Cons, the game converts from a one player masterpiece to a two player casual couch co-op adventure. Unlike Galaxy‘s super shallow co-op, here player two has something meaningful to do as they control Cappy to collect coins, provide a launch pad for Mario, and attack/possess enemies. Once player two is done, you can snap the controllers back together and keep playing solo. It’s such an easy, low investment, low commitment way to play that only seems possible on something like the Switch.
Odyssey has so much good going for it, you need to give it a shot. Everything about the game is just really damn clever, but most impressive is that it revolutionizes Mario without making him unrecognizable. Oh yeah, it’s really really fun too.
Patrick Hellen: What a year. The Switch, Super NES Classic, and Xbox One X all landed, and two of those were near impossible to find. Nintendo dominated the discussion and charts for a good chunk of the year, and made my game of the year consideration pretty easy.
On March 3rd, 2017, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released for WiiU and Switch, and immediately flew off of shelves. When the Switch itself was difficult to find, the game still had an attach rate of over 1:1, where more people owned the game than owned Switches! This is partially due to people purchasing collectors editions, etc, but also because people were buying the game where it was available, and waiting to find their Joy-Con beauty.
To say that Breath of the Wild was my game of the year is an understatement. It’s up there as one of the best games I’ve ever played. Witcher 3 and Breath of the Wild both grabbed me and did not let me go for months, but even Geralt’s quest ended up getting to a point where fatigue set in, and I held off on starting the DLC. So far, at over 185 hours, I’m still not feeling any less curious about what’s over the next hill, or if there’s a Korok on the top of that tree. The fact that the design team took the explore-and-discover mechanic and turned it into as rewarding an experience as defeating bosses or collecting weapons is genius. I had no idea there was a seaside village in the southeast corner of the map until long after I was swinging the Master Sword and had explored nearly every other corner of the continent.
I played so much of this game, I actually went on Etsy and bought all the Amiibo cards so I could get all the armor sets and Epona. That’s a MACRO-transaction, to make sure I could play this game to its fullest, and I’m not upset about it at all. I still scan my cards in every day or so to get loot, treasure chests, and food items, and all the surplus armor for 125 rupees a pop.
When I finally fought Ganon, it was almost a bit of an afterthought that still felt like a perfect bow on the end of a game I started in July and finished in December. I managed to draw out my exploration to find all 120 shrines and 500+ korok seeds, and my total exploration percentage was still only at 66%! With the Champions DLC out, I’m going to be back in there before I know it to finish off the rest of a near perfect game.